Small Communities and the Limits of E-Government Engagement: A Northeast Ohio Case Study

Small Communities and the Limits of E-Government Engagement: A Northeast Ohio Case Study

John A. Hoornbeek (Kent State University, USA), Kent Sowards (Kent State University, USA) and Brian Kelley (Kent State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1740-7.ch082
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Abstract

Existing research suggests that progress toward a “virtual state” is inconsistent – at least at the local level of government. Coursey and Norris (2008) argue that few governments have moved beyond an informational presence on the internet and Cassell and Hoornbeek (2010) suggest that populist engagements (Kakabadse et al., 2003) between citizens and local governments remain the exception rather than the rule. This chapter examines two questions regarding e-government engagement among small communities in northeast Ohio. First, it assesses the extent to which small communities in northeast Ohio use websites to engage their citizens. And second, it analyzes factors that lead these governments to create websites and develop them to enable citizen engagement. We find that limited capacities and uncertain demand both limit small community website operations. We also suggest that these findings can help us understand constraints to E-government transformations and perhaps also the inconsistent nature of e-government citizen engagements.
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Background

In spite of notable progress toward greater internet use by governments, existing research suggests that progress toward a “virtual state” is inconsistent – at least at the local level of government. Brown (2007) argues that the slow progress achieved to date among local governments is attributable to an understandably slow process of local government (website) maturation. Others are more pessimistic regarding the prospects for E-government. Bolgherini (2007) suggests that a high proportion of e-government initiatives fail and Coursey and Norris (2008) point out that few governments have moved beyond an informational presence on the worldwide web. Cassell and Hoornbeek (2010) present data that re-enforces this latter point, and suggest that populist engagements (Kakabadse et al., 2003) among citizens and their local governments are still the exception rather than the rule. They also argue that some of this lack of progress is political, as local governments determine the nature of their presence on the web in the context of the political environments within which they operate.

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